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A whole-grain diet increases whole-body protein balance compared with a macronutrient-matched refined-grain diet

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posted on 2023-05-03, 20:35 authored by Jacob Mey, Jean-Philippe Godin, Amanda Scelsi, Emily Kullman, Steven Malin, Shengping Yang, Elizabeth Floyd, Alexander Poulev, Roger Fielding, Alastair RossAlastair Ross, John Kirwan
Background: There are limited data from randomized control trials to support or refute the contention that whole-grains can enhance protein metabolism in humans. Objectives: To examine: 1) the clinical effects of a whole-grain diet on whole-body protein turnover; 2) the cellular effects of whole-grains on protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells; and 3) the population effects of whole-grain intake on age-related muscle loss. Methods: Adults with overweight/obesity (n = 14; age = 40 ± 7 y; BMI = 33 ± 5 kg/m2) were recruited into a crossover, randomized controlled trial (NCT01411540) in which isocaloric, macronutrient-matched whole-grain and refined-grain diets were fully provisioned for two 8-wk periods. Diets differed only in the presence of whole-grains (50 g/1000 kcal). Whole-body protein kinetics were assessed at baseline and after each diet in the fasted-state (13C-leucine) and integrated over 24 h (15N-glycine). In vitro studies using C2C12 cells assessed global protein synthesis by surface sensing of translation and anabolic signaling by Western blot. Complementary epidemiological assessments using the NHANES database assessed the effect of whole-grain intake on muscle function assessed by gait speed in older adults (n = 2783). Results: Integrated 24-h net protein balance was 3-fold higher on a whole-grain diet compared with a refined-grain diet (P = 0.04). A whole-grain wheat extract increased submaximal rates of global protein synthesis (27%, P < 0.05) in vitro. In a large sample of older adults, whole-grain intake was associated with greater muscle function (OR = 0.92; 95% CI: 0.86, 0.98). Conclusions: Consuming 50 g/1000 kcal whole-grains per day promotes greater protein turnover and enhances net protein balance in adults. Whole-grains impact skeletal muscle at the cellular level, and are associated with greater muscle function in older adults. Collectively, these data point to a new mechanism whereby whole-grain consumption favorably enhances protein turnover and improves health outcomes.


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© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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Oxford University Press

Journal title

Current Developments in Nutrition




Mey, J. T., Godin, J.-P., Scelsi, A. R., Kullman, E. L., Malin, S. K., Yang, S., Floyd, Z. E., Poulev, A., Fielding, R. A., Ross, A. B., & Kirwan, J. P. (2021). A whole-grain diet increases whole-body protein balance compared with a macronutrient-matched refined-grain diet. Current Developments in Nutrition, 5(11), nzab121.

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